New Today

Student Led Conferences: Sick and Tired of Blogs & Reflection?
Silvia Tolisano, Langwitches, April 22, 2014

I really like the idea of student-led conferences, though I think they should be used more imaginatively than to "present to their parents about the state of their learning." Why can't they be real conferences about real things, presenting original work and research they devised on their own? This would allow them to appeal to all students (one wonders how many lives would have been changed were the industrial arts students' work valued and presented as just as important as academic work (or for that matter were academic and industrial arts work valued and presented as just as important as athletics)). But more to the point, we have to get away from this: "I am writing what my teachers want to hear, but not really what I think." Why not create student-led conferences that are genuine examples of students' interests? (p.s. the name of the blog is finally explained here).

The plot to kill the password
Russell Brandom, The Verge, April 22, 2014

Interesting look at the use of fingerprints for identification. The concept depends on two things: first, something called zero-knowledge proof, wherein the system knows that the fingerprint-based login was successful, but never has a copy of the fingerprint itself, and second (and related) the use of local devices to log you into remote services ("You’ve always got a finger and a phone, so logging in isn’t a problem, but the combination makes the security much, much harder to break"). The specification is being promoted by the FIDO Alliance, which includes most major vendors (except, of course, Apple, which never plays well with others). As for me, I would not mourn the passing of the password.

How much should we be willing to pay for a use?
Doug Johnson, Blue Skunk Blog, April 22, 2014

Doug Johnson asks, "How do you determine if you are getting your bitcoin's worth of use from a paid resource - whether it is a reference source, full-text database, e-book subscription, or set of teaching products?" That's a tough question. It's harder because value changes with format - and with use. I remember the World Book fondly because I read the multiple volumes cover-to-cover while I was in high school. Infinitely valuable! But if it's just a reference library, costing 70 cents a search, it's not nearly the same. $5K for an annual subscription seems like a lot (it's way more than the paper copies on the shelf in the library could have cost). Why not just use Wikipedia (or better - have the students create their own encyclopedia using Wikipedia and other sources)?

AHELO: The Ontario Experience
Mary Catharine Lennon, Linda Jonker, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), April 22, 2014

The purpose of this study was to determine whether standardized international learning outcomes assessment were possible. The study concludes it is possible: "Experts and faculty agreed on shared learning outcomes and assessment questions, and the project management and execution followed a common protocol across the globe." But there's a lot of slack around the margins. "The data are not representative of the jurisdictions or the institutions," reports the study, and "The tests themselves were not found to be accurate." Moreover, "student recruitment for low stakes testing is extremely challenging." And many of the institutions did not obtain the ethics clearance to study their own data. 49 page PDF.

As an aside, I found this interesting, as I've commented on it many times in my talks but rarely see it instantiated in practice: "Rather than assessing content knowledge, both discipline-specific assessments focused on the application of knowledge (i.e., can a student 'think like an engineer')." This is a departure from what a lot of people think about when they think about standardized tests. But it's an approach that recognizes that knowledge isn't an accumulation of facts in the brain, but rather, is a reflection of an overall brain-state: to 'know' is to see the world in a certain way, to recognize things in a characteristic way, to 'think like an engineer'.

Blinded by scientific gobbledygook
Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen, April 22, 2014

This really should spell the end of the 'gold' model of 'pay-for-publication' open access scientific publishing. It may be the end for the journal system generally, beyond a few well-known journals. In this case a badly-written mostly-plagiarized paper was accepted for publication by numerous journals (the acceptances came, of course, with a request for a publication fee). Of course, it's not just the publications. “The other problem is that scholarly writing is just dreadful and has become more and more dreadful over the past 10 years or so."

Competencies Come to Campus
Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed, April 22, 2014

The problem I have with competency-based prior assessment is that they're essentially loss leaders. It is very rare to see a university accept more than a small percentage of credits by assessment. They are even typically stingy on credit transfers from other institutions. In the boxed inset accompanying this article, for example, the student is able to apply 21 credits toward a 107 credit degree. In exchange for some lower-cost assessments up front, the university now has him on the hook for $20K in tuition for additional courses (it would be even more without the additional transfers from other institutions). Nice recruitment strategy. A proper competency assessment program would put everything on the table. But universities will resist this until the end.

Learning Activity 6-A-1
Various authors, Building Online Collaborative Environments Course, April 22, 2014

I had some fun this morning reviewing the response of some students defending the thesis that "Connectivism has a direct impact on education and teaching as it works as a learning theory." To be most fair, these students probably had an impossible task, not because connectivism isn't a learning theory, but because of the way the problem was framed. I offer a bit of a response here, expanding on the way connectivism is a learning theory. Via jnanassy. (p.s. people shouldn't use the blue 'Theories of Learning' infographic; in my view, it is a very poor representation of learning theories.)

Wiley Acquires CrossKnowledge: New Player in Corporate Learning
Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte, April 22, 2014

Take note: "Wiley has repositioned itself significantly and is making major investments in the markets for corporate and individual professional development. Over the last several years Wiley acquired Inscape (DISC assessment products), Profiles International (prehire and team assessments), Deltak (learning management system and student relationship platform for the education industry), and now CrossKnowledge, a fast-growing provider of corporate e-learning, LMS, and content management solutions."

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
RSS Feed:

Key Articles

Scholarly Articles

Cites:294 Educational Blogging (Local copy)
264 Learning objects: Resources for distance education worldwide (Local copy)
134 E-learning 2.0 (Local copy)
126 Models for sustainable open educational resources (Local copy)
88 The future of online learning (Local copy
75 Learning networks and connective knowledge (Local copy)
70 Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education (Local copy)
59 Resource profiles (Local copy)
40 Learning networks in practice (Local copy)
33 Semantic networks and social networks (Local copy)
35 An introduction to connective knowledge (Local copy)
27 Design, standards and reusability (Local copy)
23 EduSource: Canada's learning object repository network (Local copy)
22 An introduction to RSS for educational designers (Local copy)

(Cites from Google Scholar for an H-Index = 14)

Recent Popular Articles

The Purpose of Learning, February 2, 2011.
The Role of the Educator, December 6, 2010.
Deinstitutionalizing Education, November 5, 2010.
Agents Provocateurs, October 28, 2010.
What Is Democracy In Education, October 22, 2010.
A World To Change, October 19, 2010.
Connectivism and Transculturality, May 16, 2010.
An Operating System for the Mind, September 19, 2009.
The Cloud and Collaboration, June 15, 2009.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom, June 5, 2009.
The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, November 16, 2008.
Things You Really Need to learn:

Social Network

Skype: Downes

About Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes is a senior researcher for Canada's National Research Council and a leading proponent of the use of online media and services in education. As the author of the widely-read OLDaily online newsletter, Downes has earned international recognition for his leading-edge work in the field of online learning. He developed some of Canada's first online courses at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. He also built a learning management system from scratch and authored the now-classic "The Future of Online Learning".

At the University of Alberta he built a learning and research portal for the municipal sector in that province, Munimall, and another for the Engineering and Geology sector, PEGGAsus. He also pioneered the development of learning objects and was one of the first adopters and developers of RSS content syndication in education. Downes introduced the concept of e-learning 2.0 and with George Siemens developed and defined the concept of Connectivism, using the social network approach to deliver open online courses to three thousand participants over two years.

Downes has been offering courses in learning, logic, philosophy both online and off since 1987, has 135 articles published in books, magazines and academic journals, and has presented his unique perspective on learning and technology more than 250 times to audiences in 17 countries on five continents. He is a habitual photographer, plays darts for money, and can be found at home with his wife Andrea and four cats in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Stephen Downes travaille pour le Conseil national de recherches du Canada, où il a servi en tant que chercheur principal, basé à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, depuis 2001. Affilié au Groupe des technologies de l'apprentissage et de la collaboration, Institut de technologie de l’information, Downes est spécialisé dans les domaines de l'apprentissage en ligne, les nouveaux médias, la pédagogie et la philosophie.

Downes est peut-être mieux connu pour son bulletin quotidien, OLDaily, qui est distribué par Internet, courriel et RSS à des milliers d'abonnés à travers le monde. Il a publié de nombreux articles à la fois en ligne et sur papier incluant The Future of Online Learning (1998), Learning Objects (2000), Resource Profiles (2003), et E-Learning 2.0 (2005). Il est un conférencier populaire, apparaissant à des centaines de manifestations à travers le monde au cours des quinze dernières années.

Vision Statement

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

Canadians who gave their lives in service in Afghanistan

Hundreds of my IAAF Track & Field Photos from Moncton 2010

My calendar

Posts viewed: 9553 today, 34975393 all time.